The Old Lady has a new set of clothes. Juventus, one of the world’s most famous and most successful football clubs – known in Italy as La Vecchia Signora – has launched a new logo and an ambitious plan to go ‘reyond football’.
Juventus’s previous club badge (not a ‘logo’, please note) employed the mixture of iconography and graphic devices familiar in the football and sporting world. Its home city of Turin was symbolised by a bull set against a black and white striped background referencing the club’s famous shirts. All this was housed within an oval ‘Old French’ shield which supposedly recalled Italian ecclesiastical symbolism. In 1958 a single yellow star was added to mark the club’s 10th league title, though that was subsequently abandoned.
Most of that has now been cast aside in favour of a geometric, sharp-edged letter J created by the Milan office of Interbrand. This new mark will begin to roll out now and will appear on club shirts from the 2017/18 season.
A ludicrously bombastic film introduced the new mark at a glitzy launch event in (strangely, given it is home to two of Juve’s biggest rivals) Milan.
If this were merely a football club badge, the logic of the change would be mystifying. Though Juventus themselves have enjoyed great success recently, the fortunes of Italian football generally have fallen. Whereas once Serie A was a showcase for the best players in the world, since the turn of the century, both Spain’s La Liga and the English Premier League have overtaken it, both in terms of revenue and star quality. Forbes ranks Juventus as the ninth richest football club in the world, the only Italian club to make the top ten. But its revenues and fan base fall significantly short of those of, for example, Real Madrid, the Manchester clubs and Barcelona.
And now another threat is emerging with the enormous spending power of clubs in the Chinese Super League who are already beginning to attract leading players with astronomical salary offers.
Asian markets are key to football clubs with global pretensions. While Chinese clubs may emerge as genuine rivals to the European giants in financial terms, they cannot compete when it comes to heritage. So why have Juventus chosen to ditch all that heritage for a new mark that has no authenticity, no sense of place, and which appears devoid of the potential for the storytelling that brands set so much store by today?
This is the club of Platini, of Boniek, Del Piero and Bettega. Despite what some brand consultants might say, ‘supporting’ a football club is not the same as being a customer of a regular brand, even if you choose your club rather than having it thrust upon you via a combination of location, family history and religion. The history of a club plays a vital part in the sense of identity and belonging that is such a big part of being a football fan. The stories associated with the devices featured on a club badge are an explicit, powerful link to that history. As Everton found out, you mess with them at your peril.
Other than the black and white stripes, this new Juventus logo dismisses all that. In sporting terms, its language is closer to that adopted by individual athletes’ personal branding, such as that designed by Aesop for Andy Murray. Or perhaps an apparel or equipment brand.
This is deliberate. According to Juventus, the mark is the visual manifestation of a growth strategy that sees the club moving beyond football and, via partnerships with other leading Italian brands, into becoming an entertainment or lifestyle brand
At the launch, Club President Andrea Agnelli reportedly claimed that “this new logo is a symbol of the Juventus way of living”. (Presumably he wasn’t referring to the ‘way of living’ which saw Juventus stripped of two titles and relegated for its part in the 2006 Calciopoli scandal.)
Speaking to Design Week, Interbrand chief strategy officer Manfredi Ricca said that Juventus was seeking to “sustain its own growth both economic and sports-wise, and extend its influence over international markets, beyond football”. The new mark, we are told, is the result of a year of research “trying to find out what the new markets want, but also to show a sense of belonging and looking to the future,” according to Agnelli.
That a football club could expand beyond its sporting origins is entirely feasible. The likes of Manchester United already operate associated hotels, cafes, media channels and entertainment venues. But as yet, these have been inextricably linked back to football. Juventus is seeking to go beyond that.
Perhaps the closest analogy is with Virgin, which parlayed a reputation built in the music business into a family of brands across air and rail travel, drinks, banking and telecoms. Could a football club do something similar? Why not?
“I saw the future of music in the 1970s. Now, Juventus have seen the future of football,” said Giorgio Moroder at the launch. And who are we to doubt the great Moroder?